3rd Circuit Upholds NJ’s Ban on Large-Capacity Gun Magazines

RIA1911 and Ammo

New Jersey – December 5, 2018. In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit refused to stop the enforcement of New Jersey’s 10-round magazine ban. The majority, in an opinion by Judge Shwartz and joined by Judge Greenaway, both appointed by President Obama, held that the ban did not violate the Second Amendment because it reasonably advanced the State’s interest in reducing mass shootings without severely burdening the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Read the full ruling here.

Ruger X magazines
Even plinkers will suffer under New Jersey’s law banning standard capacity magazines, but those wanting to carry more than 10 rounds in a magazine for self-defense are most at risk.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected a challenge to New Jersey’s ban on firearm magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

The appeals court, by a 2-1 margin, said the law limiting high-capacity magazines does not violate the Second Amendment, the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The court affirmed an order from the U.S. District Court that denied the challengers’ motion to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of the law.

The ruling is a major setback for the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, an NRA-affiliated group that challenged New Jersey’s ban, which was adopted in June. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York as well as some cities and counties have adopted laws limiting the possession and sale of magazines to 10 rounds, and five other circuit courts have upheld similar laws.

New Jersey’s law was allegedly enacted in response to the rise in active and mass shooting incidents in the United States. The appeals court found the ban “reasonably fits the State’s interest in public safety and does not unconstitutionally burden the Second Amendment’s right to self-defense in the home.”

Judges Joseph Greenaway Jr. and Patty Shwartz ruled to affirm the lower court. Judge Stephanos Bibas, in a 19-page dissenting opinion, called for granting an injunction against enforcement while the state makes its argument that the ban can prevent harm from mass shootings.

Shwartz, writing for the majority, noted that mass shootings increased 160 percent from 2006 to 2015.

New Jersey’s law does not severely burden the core Second Amendment right to self-defense in the home for five reasons, Shwartz wrote. It does not categorically ban a class of firearms; it does not ban a type of firearm that is overwhelmingly chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, such as a handgun; and the record shows large-capacity magazines are not well-suited for self-defense.

In addition, a ban on large-capacity magazines, unlike a ban on handguns, does not effectively disarm individuals or substantially hamper their ability to defend themselves. It also does not render the weapon incapable of operating as intended, and possession of a firearm in the home for self-defense is not a protected form of possession under all circumstances, Shwartz wrote.

The ruling affirms a Sept. 28 decision by U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan, who refused to enjoin enforcement of the large-capacity magazine ban. He disagreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that limiting magazines to 10 rounds instead of 15 violates their constitutional rights.

Glock 33-round magazines
Do the judges really believe that somone who intends to commit murder will care whether the magazine in the gun is legal?

Sheridan’s ruling said New Jersey, a densely populated urban state, has a strong interest in regulating firearms. He cited anecdotal evidence from a June 2018 mass shooting at an arts festival in Trenton that lives are saved when a gunman has to stop shooting to reload. Sheridan said a similar phenomenon was seen in the 2012 shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and at other mass shootings.

Bibas said the majority erred because laws that impair self-defense in the home warrant strict scrutiny, not intermediate scrutiny as the other judges selected. And the law fails the strict scrutiny test, Bibas said.

The ban impairs using guns for self-defense, since the more-frequent reloading necessitated by a smaller magazine “may make guns less effective for ill—but so too for good,” Bibas said.

Bibas also said that even under intermediate scrutiny, the law fails under the record of the case. Intermediate scrutiny “requires more concrete and specific proof before the government may restrict any constitutional right, period,” Bibas said.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement, “We are pleased with the Third Circuit’s ruling. Today’s decision was a big win for public safety and the safety of our law enforcement officers.”

Jeremy Feigenbaum, an assistant attorney general and counsel to the attorney general, argued for the state at the Third Circuit.

Daniel Schmutter of Hartman & Winnicki in Ridgewood, local counsel for the plaintiffs, said his clients were “disappointed by the court’s ruling” but “gratified by the strong and persuasive dissent by Judge Bibas.” The plaintiffs are considering their appellate options, including potentially seeking a rehearing en banc (before all of the judges), Schmutter said.

Do you think the Third Circuit’s ruling to uphold the ban on magazines based on capacity will hold? How should New Jersey’s gun owners fight the ruling? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (20)

  1. Great! now only military, police, and criminals will have large capacity magazines while the average gun owner will not. This is in direct violation of our constitutional rights no matter what some liberal ass clown 3rd circuit court judge has to say about it. The Governor of New Jersey, and especially these 3rd circuit jerk-offs have all sworn an oath to defend the constitution and in true liberal ass-clown fashion, they attack the constitution when elected. What a pack of fcking scumbags!

  2. Wow, if you when like babies when they limit magazines, just think how much you are going to enjoy it when we get a Democratic Senate and President in 2020, and we start seriously regulating guns. I can’t wait until possessing an unregistered firearm is a felony with a Federal mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years. You folks should not have made guns a partisan issue. I wouldn’t care about your childish fetish for weapons, but you made it a political issue. You opposed the left, so we will destroy the NRA, and ban your toys, just to punish you for supporting the wrong party, and use resistance to gun control a means of stripping your voting rights. You should give up before we start targeting you and your families individually.

  3. If all police forces were held to the same standard or the magazines could be permitted then maybe … just maybe…I could entertain this. But as it stands this is tyrrany.

  4. Many of us are smart enough to know that a reduction in magazine size is the FIRST step in a total gun ban. Mass shooters are criminals with a total disregard for gun laws. Gun laws are for those citizens who obey the law, and by definition . . . non criminal, non mass shooters, no need for magazine limits-period! Supreme Court will hopefully overrule this. We shall see.

  5. I thought that the purpose of the second amendment was to enable citizens to resist a tyrannical government – government by the consent of the governed. The second amendment is the provision that the founding fathers provided for the public to “withdraw consent”. In that case, citizens need to have parity with law enforcement and the military. But somewhere along the line, we have allowed the debate to become centered on hunting and home protection. This is why many people believe that it seems reasonable to limit access to weapons. It’s harder to justify the need for powerful guns and big magazines if all I am talking about is a deer hunt, or protecting the 3000 square feet I call home. But that debate is a distraction from the real, core issue. The second amendment exists as an important check and balance on the government, and citizens require access to whatever is necessary to check and balance the potential threat against society – the corrupt use of power.

  6. Lord have mercy. Hopefully they’ll ban drugs next and we won’t have to worry about that anymore! It’s that simple!

  7. Perhaps some confusion is caused by the wording of the ruling. Who said anything about self defense in a home or house? Being retired, I frequently travel by RV and often in very rural areas without cell service. My Glock holds 15 rounds, and I do not really worry about a reload unless I take a walk. At night, being often in bear country, I like the 20 round mag in the AR. Are you going to get 20 shots at an attacking bear> Of course not, but I also know of several cases where armed intruders attacked campers and 2 cases where they were murdered. One such case was a couple killed at a roadside park on Interstate 40, where the couple stopped to walk their dogs, I have often stopped at that one to walk my dogs. After a career in law enforcement I can tell you that whenever that AR comes out, the bad guys change their attitude because they know it has lots of bullets and the come out quick. And when you are in places where there is no cell phone coverage, and the bad guys know that, the mere sight of the long magazine can save your life. If they choose to do a battle then a reload is simply a bad idea, so 20 or 30 rounds is the difference between living or not. That is what we call self defense. So, just because you think you can stop all 4 home invaders with your 6 shot revolver, does not mean it works for everyone. And yes, there are lots of home invasions where 2 or more young thugs come through the door. I am just assuming from the comments that many readers have not been in law enforcement, because multiple invaders is as common as a single invader. FWIW

  8. Of course this violates the 2nd Amendment, absolutely this is an “infringement” Some say the Founding Fathers never envisioned modern arms. So what, they never envisioned planes, trains, automobiles, or amplified & recorded speech either.

    Arms evolve.
    The RIGHT remains the same!

  9. “Law abiding citizens” DONT COMMIT MASS MURDER!!!! Law abiding means you DONT break the law. If you commit mass murder, you are no longer a law abiding citizen…. If you dont obey that law, what would make you obey the magazine capacity laws?

  10. These are revisionist jurists who blatantly violate their oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. They should, properly, be disbarred. But then the state and U.S. Bar Assn.s are all populated by Leftists, as are many appeals courts.

    There is no better proof to the adage; people get the government they deserve, than the fools, in the U.S., who continually elect leftist judges.

  11. Sooo! They are telling me that if I own a legal gun and magazine then I am a criminal!!
    No common sense Judges. What are they thinking! Oh there not.! Go disarm the gang members and the ones that sell illegal guns. OH Hell that’s a stupid Idea. It is easy to shoot a legal gun owner at 4 am when the cops are beating on his door and he comes with a gun in his hand because he does not know who it is. Good for them a dangerous man down.

  12. OBAMA JUDGES AS THEY STATED ” GONNA REGULATE FIREARMS” Next the Demorat socialists will be confiscating guns and guess who only will have a gun other thant the law?? The criminal who they have no clue on how to solve that problem so they regulate and restrict legal gun owners rights. Goodbye 2nd. A. This is what N.J. citizens voted for in Nov. 2018

    1. They don’t want to solve the crime problem. They want it to flourish so they may use it as support for their agenda of total citizen disarmament in their march toward socialism.

  13. Large capacity magazines not well suited to self defense? Has anyone taken the time to figure the average number of shots fired by police during an encounter? And these are trained individuals. I’ve carried a handgun for 40 years (usually of the 1911 variety) and shoot regularly but if the sutuation ever arises I’m a firm believer that more is better (sig p225) along with extra magazines.

  14. No it is a violation of the 2nd Amendment, and the 3rd Circuit’s reasoning in error. There is no documented proof that reduced capacity saves lives. The quoted Trenton incident only shows the gunman’s ineptitude with his weapon. The fact that there is no grandfather clause in the legislation, and the State’s unwillingness to compensate owners for a loss of property is wrong. It does place a financial burden upon the owners and removes from circulation a common component of use.

  15. I’m having trouble with this: 17 is too many, but 15 is okay. Wait, 15 is too many, but 10 is okay. Wait…

    I think this is true evidence of the slippery slope. Next year will 10 be too many?
    I think we know the answer unfortunately. I can only hope we get one more justice on SCOTUS with some leaning toward the other direction.
    I wonder what will happen when groups start demanding that LE be limited in capacity? How far will that fly? Seems like the coasts really are at the extreme here. Makes me wonder if ole Ross Perot was on to something when he suggesting moving the capital to the heartland.

  16. I would be very hard pressed to cite any case of self defense requiring six rounds,barring Police who unload all ammunition as a matter of policy when involved in an encounter. The revolver meets my needs. Agressors are more likely to have multiple targets than multiple confederates joined t9 a common cause. The defense argument is spurious. Plinkers being inconvenienced in their pursute of burning money is of no consequence compared to potential public safety.

    1. With all due respect, and I mean that, I am assuming that you have not seen humans shot nor many animals. Home invasions often involve 2 or 3 folks who believe there is money, drugs or something they can sell to buy drugs in the home. When you shoot a deer for example, they run a long way before they cease to function. Shot a big 10 point 3 weeks ago with a 257 Weatherby Magnum. He never even flinched even though I later found both lungs severely damaged and the top of the heart destroyed. I have harvested well over 100 so, I am not new to this. SO I shot him a second time about 40 yards further. Humans, also do not just stop at the first shot. If you have 3 young thugs each with a 9mm storming through your house late a night, it may take multiple shots (per person) to stop the attack. I am also retired from the military and law enforcement and have investigated several cases where folks died from a single 22 or 38 round. Problem is, they do not just stop what they are doing and die later. So, if you meet 3 young guys all with 9mms in your home, do you really want your 6 shot revolver? Personally for me, either a shotgun with at least 5 rounds in in it, or an AR/mini-14 type gun with 20-30 rounds is preferred. Think about it, the 3 bad guys are standing there in your home, you in your underwear, with a 6 shooter, or a bad looking long gun? Which is more likely to convince them to walk away? And which is more likely to keep you and your kids, grandkids, etc alive, if they choose to do battle. There are reportedly 4 million home burglaries per year, but then again the only one that matters is the one at my house or yours. Just saying. And for anyone that has doubts just Google people being shot. In most cases it take 3-5 shots before they even seem to react. FWIW

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